By August 11, 2019 Read More →

Tisha Bav in Israel 2019 – Why Fast?

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If there is one day more than any other in the Jewish Calendar that reflects how different life is here in Israel than abroad, it is Tisha B’av.

Tisha B’av abroad often turns into a quasi Yom Hashoah. The majority of programmes feature films and survivors from the Shoah and talks are often on the subject of why good things happen to bad people, human suffering and theodicy. Rare is there mention of the the lacking of the Bet Mikdash, the centrality of the Avodah of the Kohanim and Korbanot nor of the Neviim who warned of impending calamity.

In Israel, the day is of a very different type. Apart from the fact I can’t drink, I actually enjoy Tisha B’av and find it an interesting and meaningful day.

Why? Not just because of the plethora of interesting programmes and shiurim to choose from (- Check out IsraelB for all the info), but also because one is encouraged to feel that, by living in Israel, one is a part of the renewal and rebirth of the Jewish People. Living in Israel signifies that we have moved on from the Churban (both of the Batei Mikdash and the Shoah) and are in the process of rebuilding Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael.

Simultaneously, as result of us having our own country, Hebrew has once again become a living language. Simply walk into a Yeshiva or high school in Israel and you will find students able to pick up any text and understand it on a simple level. Levels of Jewish literacy are palpably higher than that of Jewish students abroad. Israeli kids can read a Mishna, Gemarah or text from Tenach fluently.

According to the Neviim, living outside Eretz Yisrael is a punishment. The ‘Galut’ that is primarily referred to in the Tenach, is that of being physically thrown out of Eretz Yisrael due to our sins. However, Jews who live in Eretz Yisrael are not living in full Galut. Though the absence of the Beit Mikdash and displacement of the Shechinah means an entrenchment in ‘Spiritual Galut’, physically, they are where they should be.

Furthermore, on Tisha B’av we remember all the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish People, including of course the Shoah.

Late on a Tisha B’Av afternoon, whilst walking to the Kotel one can’t help but appreciate modern day Jerusalem. The contrast of the new David Citadel and Mamila and the weathered yet beautiful facades of the Old City and its residents make one long for the majesty of the Bet Mikdash to resolve and complete this contract. Being surrounded by young people doing the same, seeing the plaza of the Kotel filled with families-young and old, religious and secular, brings confidence that Yerushalayim will one day soon be even more indescribable.

Yerushalayim is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

So, should we still fast on Tisha B’av in Israel 2018?

Yes, for the following reasons:

1) We still don’t have the Bet Mikdash. Even though, yes, we may have gone back to the days of Yehoshua as we do have sovereignty (although we don’t have Malchut) and have conquered the land again. They say in 20 years time, the majority of Jews will live in Eretz Yisrael and then the laws of Yovel will apply and subsequently other Halachot of Eretz Yisrael will also come into effect. Still though, as we don’t have a Bet Hamikdash, we haven’t gone back to the time period of Shlomo Hamelech and we need to mourn and feel the void.

2) Tisha B’av is a day when we remember all the tragedies in our history. We are Jews, and our past is part of our present and defines how we percieve our future.

3) Sinat Chinam, which Chazal say caused the Churban of the Second Bet Mikdash is still sadly prevalent in Israeli society.

4) Although, things aren’t bad as described in the first perek of Yeshayahu which we read on Shabbat Chazon, there are problems in Israeli society: The corruption and dishonesty in politics and amongst the leadership, the polarisation and lack of unity, the lack of tolerance and mutual respect and the inability to accept and help minorities and outsiders .

5) Is Israeli society ready for a Bet Mikdash given all the disunity and in-fighting? Before the Bet Mikdash can come, the Jewish People need to be ready for it. I just don’t think enough ground work has been done.

So, Israel isn’t a perfect country and like any other society, there is still much work to be done. But Israel is like no other country. To think that just over 70 years ago, the Jewish People underwent the most horrific tragedy that any nation has experienced where a third of our People was murdered and yet have within such a short amount of time have managed to create a country which is a leader in so many fields and areas is something we must be proud of.

Ben Gurion said, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.” The fact we live in a country smaller than the size of Wales, and yet have managed to survive and prosper here in the Middle East against all the odds , is something we should bear in mind and be thankful for each day. We are living in a time period of ‘Kibutz Kaluyot’, with Jews from all around the world making Aliyah and making Israel their home

Only in Israel, can you live a totally Jewish life as those of us who grew up in Chutz La’aretz appreciate. Despite everything, Israel is our one and only country and the only place a Jew can call home.

Benjy Singer

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